The best business class seats on United's Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners

By Chris Chamberlin, March 16 2016
The best business class seats on United's Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners

Flying daily from Melbourne to Los Angeles and also from Sydney to both LA and San Francisco come late March, United's Boeing 787 Dreamliners offer high flyers a considerably improved 'BusinessFirst' (business class) experience over the Boeing 777s of years passed.

With seats arranged in a 2-2-2 layout, direct and uninterrupted access to the aisles is at a premium: but can still be yours if you choose wisely.

United Boeing 787-9 'BusinessFirst' business class

Split across two zones, most passengers are seated in the forward section with five rows, conveniently numbered 1-5, while a further three rows form a mini-cabin immediately behind as rows 6-8.

All BusinessFirst seats come in pairs, with these our top picks.

1D, 1E, 6D, 6E: These seats are at the front and centre of each cabin, providing direct aisle access with nobody hopping over you – as your seatmate can use the opposing aisle – plus the benefit of a small shelf area at each bulkhead wall:

It's a great place to plonk your bag while fishing out your pyjamas (BYO), laptop and charging cables, and after the first meal service is completed is usually transformed into a snack table for easy access to grab-and-go chips, sandwiches and fruit.

These seats are close to the galleys and restrooms which usually signals possible noise disruption, but having taken overnight flights in both rows 1 & 6, we weren't kept awake by noise, light or fellow passengers.

Any other centre pair: Ideal for solo travellers keen for a good sleep or a productive flight, there's again nobody jumping over you and nobody to climb over yourself so you can cruise to your destination on your own schedule.

Row 3, for light sleepers: Smack bang in the middle of the main business class cabin, you're three rows from the restrooms ahead of row 1 and behind row 5, making for less aisle traffic from passing passengers and less chance of noise from passengers chatting while waiting for the facilities.

Rows 1-5, for a calm boarding: Scroll back up to the seat map and you'll spot four red triangles – they indicate the aircraft doors, and more often than not, the one used to board passengers is on the left between rows 5 and 6.

That means travellers in Economy Plus and regular economy step on there and turn right, walking through the business class mini-cabin (rows 6-8) to reach their seat and making the aisle congested while you're trying to get settled. Opt for something in rows 1-5 and the'll be much more room for you to move about.

Avoid row 8: Nobody likes listening to a crying, screaming baby in the air, but choose row 8 and there's a good chance that's just what you'll get. With not one, but three bassinets attaching to the bulkhead wall immediately behind these seats, make this row your last resort.

Right behind that wall and non-soundproof curtain? A baby bassinet...

Avoid 4A, 4L: The Dreamliner's large 'electrochromic' windows provide great views during the day – particularly from Australia to the USA – and can block most light from outside without a shutter, but pick 4A or 4L and you'll wind up with one less window than everybody else on board, and less to look at.

Also read: United Boeing 787 'BusinessFirst' review: Melbourne-LAX

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter – we're @AusBT

ChrisCh
ChrisCh

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!

Ryan K

Ryan K

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 May 2013

Total posts 291

The 1990's called, they'd like their cabin interior back...

FLX

FLX

10 Dec 2015

Total posts 179

<<...1990's called, they'd like their cabin interior back...>>

Aside fm possibly the colour theme or fabric choice(But these are corp branding driven anyway), there's nothing in this J cabin design+specs that's common /similar to the ones launched by UA or CO in the 1990s.

It's similar to saying QF's latest J cabin is bringing back its J fm the 1990s.... 

russell

russell

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2011

Total posts 323

This would seriously have to be the worst business class hard product I have seen.Those head cushions look like an afterthought. The privacy screen likes like it would only have an effect on a pair of 2 year olds.

sgb

sgb

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 742

Those sloppy head cushions look like their velcrosed on. That privacy screen wouldn't even shield B.O. Does the arm rest rise up?

FLX

FLX

10 Dec 2015

Total posts 179

<<...would seriously have to be the worst business class hard product I have seen.>>

Probably but UA is not alone with this J among top tier carriers worldwide.  Do try to expand your view a bit wider by taking a look @ the latest intercon J on LH, CA, KL, etc.  Aside fm fabric choice+colour scheme(i.e. more about styling than practical functionality+comfort level), U'll see essentially the same J design on these carriers. 

moa999

moa999

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1372

How United thought launching a 2x2x2 business config in 2016 was a good idea I don't know.

Maybe they just like being ten years behind.

sgb

sgb

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 742

Totally inappropriate for long distance transcontinental flying.

FLX

FLX

10 Dec 2015

Total posts 179

<<How United thought launching a 2x2x2 business config in 2016 was a good idea I don't know.>>

Probably because U also don't know this 2-2-2 layout, along with this  particular J design, is NOT launched in 2016.  It's not even launched by UA per se.  Both were actually developed+launched by CO in Rev$ service around 2009-2010 1st on its 772ER fleet(Also planned for CO's 787 fleet).....well before any 787 was flying for any carrier.  After merger, this J design+config has been adopted by UA for its entire 787 fleet.

This J design+layout has been around for 6yrs+ and UA is <<launching>> a nex gen J+layout planned to debut in its 77W <<in 2016>> already reported by www.ausbt.com.au on 9Dec15.  Rumor leaked fm internal source that it will be 1-2-1.

drgmarshall

drgmarshall

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2012

Total posts 140

Hi Chris, thx for the update. I have a couple of questions:

1. Do they offer an "over matrass" like Qantas and Air NZ to go over the standard seat cushions?

2. Is the seat actually fully lay-flat?

cheers.

ChrisCh

ChrisCh

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2917

Hi there, please see the linked flight review at the bottom of the article which answers your questions. :)

Chris_PER

Chris_PER

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Feb 2014

Total posts 451

Did they pull these seats out of their DC-10s??? Seriously...come on.

sgb

sgb

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 742

More like DC- 8's.

FLX

FLX

10 Dec 2015

Total posts 179

Hv U even seen the J seat designs of UA & CO on their D10s(I hv not just seen but actually travelled on 1 before they were retired decades ago)?  If U hv, U wouldn't hv implied UA's current J is anywhere similar.  Seriously...come on.

On the other hand, I can understand those folks who hate that colour scheme/styling(Actually a legacy of CO branding) though which has not changed much all along but that's more a personal / individual preference than actual product std.

styelonthego

styelonthego

03 Mar 2016

Total posts 14

Flew LAX-MEL on the UA 98 service in January and the flight was surprisingly good. The 787-9 I flew on was just 3 months old. Still smelled new. The cabin interiors certainly lack style but the seats (Row 3) were quite comfortable and I was able to sleep for about 7 of the 15.5 hours of flight time. The main meal service (dinner) was sufficient and better than edible (for United, this is a positive). The toilets were kept clean throughout the flight. The crew were friendly and efficient (these are Continental crewed flights). United has upped its game with the Dreamliner on these flights. The airline has a long way to go but this is all a positive step forward.

FLX

FLX

10 Dec 2015

Total posts 179

<<The crew were friendly and efficient...United has upped its game with...>>

Finally, someone here detected the change going on @ UA in recent yrs after its initial merger mess.  Though it's always fun/entertaining to continue picking on an ugly duck(especially when it's foreign) based on widely accepted but out-dated perceptions......

I used to hate UA customer service(pre-merger) but I hv always enjoyed CO(For 2decades before merger).  I agree UA today is a completely diff animal than the one fm just 3-4yrs ago.

lind26

lind26

24 Apr 2014

Total posts 269

It's funny what is mentioned about row 8 and children crying. I have kids now and am accustomed to noise so I barely hear it even when they cry. It's all relative.

Truie

Truie

26 Jul 2015

Total posts 43

Remeber, Emirates have 2x3x2 on their new 777's so UA is not the only ones going backwards.

FLX

FLX

10 Dec 2015

Total posts 179

<<...UA is not the only ones going backwards.>>

When a carrier transition its J layout fm 8abreast to 6abreast, I find it extremely difficult to label such move logically as <<going backwards>>....

Besides, is UA truly <<going backwards>> in the intercon mkt or we've not really been paying attention to UA's future J product plan but pass judgment anyway?  A clue: Try the news already reported by www.ausbt.com.au on 9Dec15.

On the other hand, EK transition fm 7abreast to 7abreast is @ most just stagnating...still not <<going backwards>>.  Of course, in this industry, stagnating is almost as bad as truly going backwards.

Guvner

Guvner

12 Sep 2014

Total posts 28

Not sure how "direct access to the aisles is at a premium" when 2/3 seats are on the aisle??

ChrisCh

ChrisCh

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2917

Direct (uninterrupted) access to the aisles (which is what most people expect these days in long-haul business class) is at a premium as 2/3 of passengers don't receive that.

RaptorNation158

RaptorNation158

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Aug 2014

Total posts 513

The best seat in any UA plane is the toilet.

cheynejonstone

cheynejonstone

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Nov 2012

Total posts 23

I've flown this version of the BusinessFirst seat on the 747, 777 and 787, and I don't understand why so many people here are complaining about it?

These seats are comfortable in comparison to similar products such as the current J seat on the QF 747/A380 as well as the current J seat on the VA 777.

Every trans Pacific UA flight I've been on has always had good to great service. The food isn't something to rave about but it was very edible. And I have always managed a decent night sleep in these seats.

The exception is the 777. It's very narrow compared to the 747/787 versions. The 787 version is the nicest I've experienced so far (also because of the other 787 features), very closely followed by the top deck of the 747 which was fantastic.

lind26

lind26

24 Apr 2014

Total posts 269

I agree. I've been on the 787 and it was absolutely fine.


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